Researchers develop 3D microscopic sensors

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Most of humanity spends most of their lives in cars, homes or work environment with high levels of air pollutants

, which is harmful to their health.

A way of monitoring levels of pollutants could be a game-changer within the health and wellbeing context.

Researchers from Trinity and Amber, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research, have devised a way of fabricating tiny-colour-changing gas sensors using new materials and DIW(Direct ink writing).
The sensorsis obsevable in real-time and detects solvent vapours in the air.

These sensors can be used in connected,

cost-effective devices in homes and installed in wearable devices used to observe human health.

The Research

The research was led by Larisa Florea, Assistant Professor in Trinity’s School of Chemistry,

and Principal Investigator at AMBER, Partnering with Louise Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices.

Dr Radislav Potyrailo from GE Research, Niskayuna New York,

was part of the research throughout.
Dr Colm Delaney Lead author of the journal article, of Trinity School of Chemistry and Research Fellow at Amber, said,
” Over 3 centuries, Robert Hooke first investigated the vibrant colours on a peacock’s wings.

It was only Centuries later Researchers discovered that the effervescent colouration was induced by the interaction of light with tiny objects on the feather,

Objects which were a couple of millionths of a metre in size.

The research took this naturally occurring design, to make exciting materials.
It is achieved through Direct laser-writing (DLW). allowing the focus of a laser into a very small spot and then use it to make tiny structures in three dimensions from the soft polymers developed in the lab.

Furthermore, Professor of Photonics at trinity, Louise Bradley added

” The research carried out between the two groups focused on modelling, design and fabrication of these tiny structures in stimuli-responsive materials.”

Jin Qian, a PhD student working with Bradley has developed designs and predicting the response of different structures that responds to light,

Heat and humidity to create systems that can truly recreate properties only found in nature.
The tiny responsive arrays,

Which are smaller than a freckle, can be used to determine a large amount of the chemistry in their environment.

Tiny coloured sensors, Is there a use case?

While regular modern sensors have increased a connected living market, there still lies a gap between low-cost, flexible chemical sensing platforms that can be used.

Photonic sensors have made considerable inroads into yielding accurate and robust alternatives,


  • low power consumption
  • , low operating costs and high sensitivity.

This is an area that Dr Potyrailo and GE Research have worked on commercialising for many years.

According to Professor Larisa Florea,” we spend a majority of our lives in homes, cars and work environment.
Models estimate that pollutant concentration can be up to 5-100times the concentration found outside.

A scary thought when WHO estimates that 90% of the world’s population lives in areas blow quality air standard limits.
these have major influences on our health.
Currently, modern sensors focus on smoke, Co2 and smoke detection.
But developing sensors that include humidity,

Carbon dioxide, oxygen levels and ammonia in real-time could play an enormous role in developing a domestic monitoring ecosystem.
This will ensure that health wellbeing monitoring becomes essential to the future of architecture and automation.

Source: Trinity college Dublin

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